My relationship with Ireland is not one of undiluted love. When I visited Macroom, the Cork town from which my ancestors left for England in the 1860s, my reaction was, ”Yes. Well. I understand why they left and I’m glad they did.” At one time in my sales career, I was responsible for a distributor in Ireland and I learned then some lessons about commercial integrity that stood me in good stead later in countries like Nigeria. I once got through the gates at Lansdowne Road only with the help of some Welsh boys who kept me upright after rather too much Guinness and I spent a happy time sliding up and down wooden benches polished by countless backsides like mine; I cannot forgive the authorities who replaced that wonderful ground with the Aviva Stadium which is simply one more international arena that could be anywhere in the world. Aherne’s in Youghal is one of the two or three finest seafood restaurants I have ever been in but when they placed me face-to-face with a huge poster of Brian O’Driscoll touching down one-handed (I’m not sure where his other hand was; stuck up his bum, probably) I’m quite sure it was intentional. My describing him as “the ageing princess of Irish rugby” caused a chill in Anglo-Irish relations that may not have thawed yet.
But all is forgiven. The Irish have voted to permit same-sex marriage. I had no stake in this game; in all my six decades I don’t believe I ever looked at another man with carnal or amatory interest. As for the politicking, my own politics – to the extent that I have them at all – are based on agreement with PJ O’Rourke (a fine Irish name if ever there was one): “The only inalienable human right is the right to do as you damn well please. And the only inalienable human obligation is to damn well take the consequences.”
What Ireland has done is to say to the world, “the way other people choose to live their lives is none of your damn business. Now bugger off.”
God bless them.